Asian curries list: Traveling through my favorites (photo essay)

Travel Through Food series is back this week and today’s feature is an Asian curries list. That’s right: A deliciously spicy photo essay, showcasing the different types of Asian curries that I love, descriptions included! Hope you enjoy these as much as I enjoyed eating many of them last week 😉

types of Asian curries photo

Photo: Sandy Austin, Flickr

Asian curries list: Vietnamese

Vietnamese curry is considered a “Southern dish” and it is the more soup-like of all types of curry I’ve tried. I love thick curries (specially Indian!), not going to lie. However, there is something about a vibrant orange cà ri gà made with big chunks of taro roots, sweet potato, carrots, rice vermicelli, coconut milk and big amounts of crispy fried onions and cilantro garnish that make me melt!

The Vietnamese also serve goat curry, but its strong taste must be acquired in order to really enjoy it.

Another interesting fact? The only reason Vietnamese have any type of curry in their cuisine is because of contact with the Siam from India back in the 17th century.

Aha! It all makes sense now 🙂

Asian curries list, Vietnamese curry soup

Mmm, look at that glorious Cà Ri Gà (Vietnamese curry soup)! I could eat this every day

Vietnamese goat curry

Vietnamese goat curry with coconut cream – less common, but served in some areas (Photo: lensfodder)

Asian curries list: Malaysian

Malaysian curries can also be attributed to Indian immigrants. Thanks to them, curries have become a staple in Malaysian cuisine as well. Common ingredients in Malaysian curry mixes are turmeric, chili peppers, garlic, coconut milk, shallots, ginger, and belacan (shrimp paste).

I had this type of curry for the first time during my first visit to London. I was Couchsurfing with many travelers from all over the world, including a sweet Asian girl named Hyejin.

On our last afternoon in town, I expressed how I was dying to have a new type of Asian curry. So, she excitedly took me to a popular Malaysian joint where we ordered “mild curry” or else I would die.

How does this story end? Well, I died anyway.

My new Asian friend and cute waiter could not understand how “a curry so mild!” could have left me with this face:

Asian curries list, me after eating Malaysian curry

My dazed and confused face after having a fiery Malaysian curry in London

Asian curries list, Malaysian curry soup

The apparently-mild Malaysian curry that killed me–EVEN MY CAMERA SHAKED!

Asian curries list, Malaysian shrimp curry

Malaysian shrimp curry (Photo: beavela, Flickr)

Asian curries list: Chinese

Chinese curries tend to be much milder in comparison to other Asian types. Also, Chinese curry sauce is typically yellow and the dish consists of onions, potatoes, green peppers and either chicken, lamb, fish, or beef.

I had Chinese yellow curry chicken for the first time in Dahab, Egypt (from all places!) at the only Chinese restaurant in the area. Unlike how it is typically described (watery), the Chinese curry I had was a thicker sauce with chicken that seemed to have been marinated with a dry rub beforehand.

It was delicious, but I wonder if it was the real thing?! All my servers, and the chef, looked Chinese…in Egypt…so maybe?

The mystery remains.

Chinese curry

Chinese curry at Seven Heaven restaurant in Dahab, Egypt

Chinese yellow curry noodles

Chinese yellow curry noodles with chicken (Photo: whity, Flickr)

Asian curries list: Indian

This is, by far, the longest Asian curry affair I’ve had! Indian curries are the first type of Asian curries list I ever tasted.

I’m not sure why I never tried any other types of Asian curries for a while...

I guess I was unsure whether Eastern spices could live up to the Indian spices I had fallen in love with?

I know, newbie mistake.

Anyway! Below are my favorite types of Indian curries.

Indian goat vindaloo curry

“Goat Vindaloo, Butter Chicken, Spinach and Black Eye Beans with half rice and roti” (avlxyz, Flickr)

Indian chicken korma curry

Chicken korma: Yellow mild curry made with almond and coconut powder. I usually like to kick it up a little and add some chili powder to it (Photo: hisc1ay, Flickr)

Indian lamb pasanda curry

Lamb pasanda curry (bottom of plate) is mild and made with coconut milk, cream, and almonds. Other items on this plate: “Red lentil dhal, rice, cabbage and potato curry” (Denni Schnapp, Flickr)

Indian bhuna curry

Look at that gorgeous bhuna curry: Medium spicy and a thick sauce, my favorite mix! Common ingredients include fresh coriander, cumin, chili, cardamom, paprika, turmeric, garlic, lemon, yoghurt, oil, and garam masala (Photo: kiyanwang, Flickr)

Asian curries list: Thai

Yet another long list of my favorite Asian curries comes from Thailand. From Panang to Massaman curry, to the red, yellow, and green-colored sauces…from khao soi to kaeng som!

Oh, I could just write about them all day as well…!

But instead, I’ll sign off with some delicious photos:

Asian curries list, Thai panang curry beef

Panang curry “traditionally includes dried chili peppers, galangal, lemongrass, coriander root, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, garlic, and salt, and sometimes also shallots, peanuts, and shrimp paste” (Wikipedia. Photo by Ariane Colenbrander, Flickr)

Asian curries list, Thai Massaman curry

Massaman curry: My favorite Thai dish! Originally from central Thailand, it came to existence thanks to a Persian trader in the 16th century CE. Typically, it is made with coconut milk, roasted peanuts/cashews, potatoes, chili, cardamom pods, star anise, palm sugar, fish sauce, bay leaves, cinnamon and tamarind sauce (Wikipedia. Photo by Pabo76, Flickr)

chicken Thai green curry

This Thai green curry, served with roti on the side, was made with “shredded kaffir lime leaves, yardlong beans, makhuea pro Thai eggplant, makhuea phuang pea-sized eggplant. For garnish: Holy basil (bai kraphao) and sliced large red chillies for color” (Takeaway, Wiki Commons)

Thai khao soi curry

Northern Thai khao soi, which means “cut rice,” is a soupy coconut milk curry made with deep fried egg noodles, pickled cabbage, shallots, lime, ground chillies fried in oil, and meat (Takeaway, Wiki Commons)

Asian curries list, Thai pumpkin curry

Thai pumpkin curry: Not in the list, but delicious regardless!

What are your favorite types of Asian curries? Comment below!

La parranda puertorriqueña: my favorite Puerto Rican Christmas tradition!

As many of you know, I was born, grew up and lived in the Enchanted Island of Puerto Rico until I was 18 years old. Thus, I know Puerto Rican Christmas very well. When thinking about our traditions, it was hard to choose which one to write about: How about explaining why the Puerto Rican Christmas goes from Thanksgiving Day all the way ’til the end of January? What about a photo essay of the delicious traditional food we eat during this season? How about listing and describing some of the many free festivals and concerts happening all over the island every single weekend? Or…tell them about the popular parranda puertorriqueña?! Well, there was the answer!

What is a parranda puertorriqueña?

In simple terms, the parranda puertorriqueña is the spiced-up, drunken cousin of the American Christmas carols. People gather with instruments and sing traditional Christmas songs as they go house by house until the “victims” open the door. Wait…why did I just say victims? Ahhh, there lies one of the big differences between the soso Christmas carols and the parranda puertorriqueña! 😉

parranda puertorriqueña, instruments

Some of the traditional instruments used in a parranda puertorriqueña: Cuatro (looks like a guitar, but has 5 sets of double strings; a plenero (looks like a drum in the photo); maracas (bottom left set); and a güiro (looks like wooden banana).

Assault!?

There is a reason why we Puerto Ricans also call the parranda puertorriqueña an ASALTO (literally meaning “assault”). Any time during the Christmas season (ahem, between Thanksgiving Day ’til the last week of January), an unsuspecting group of your friends could show up at your house in the middle of the night, usually the wee hours of 2-3 AM, and a particular night when they know you are asleep btw, screaming…

ASALTO!! (ASSAULT!) and start playing the pleneros, guiro, Spanish guitar and sometimes even trumpets and the cuatro puertorriqueño as loudly as possible, along with some off-sync singing of traditional songs, until you wake the heck up.

Heart attack to follow? Only if you are not used to the tradition! Puerto Ricans simply jump off the bed so excited (yet still with the heart beating at 475634785 mph) and dash to the front door to receive the friends that are delighting them with a parranda puertorriqueña! What about your neighbors!? you may ask. Well, typically they get so excited as well and come out to their balconies so they in order to enjoy it, too! 😀

parranda puertorriqueña instrument: The güiro

Güiro: Looks like a wooden banana, is hollow inside, has two holes behind it to hold it (similar to the holes in a bowling ball) and its front is full of horizontal dents throughout. For sound, a little piece of wood, with metal “fingers” attached, is used. It makes a rasping sound that perfectly complements any parranda puertorriqueña!

Once the people that perpetuated the “assault” walk into the “victims” house, they keep singing, playing their instruments, and even dancing while the “victims” (aka the hosts) start bringing out all the food and alcohol they got. Some of us Puerto Ricans call this “la comprita:” A set of groceries, finger food, rum, and other types of alcohol we always got stock up on the side of our pantry throughout the Christmas season in case we receive a parranda puertorriqueña. So if we are surprised and “assaulted” by our friends, we are ready! 😉

parranda puertorriqueña, congas

Other typical instruments found in a good parranda puertorriqueña are the congas (duo on the right)–and any piece of wood that can make a similar, complementing sound (left)! This photo was taken at a Christmas party back in my neighborhood in Gurabo, Puerto Rico!

Eat, drink, party — and repeat

But, what happens after all the food and alcohol runs out!? Ahh, everyone goes home? Umm, NOPE!! This is just the beginning! Typically, the “victims” aka “hosts” that were awoken join the parranda puertorriqueña as someone suggests the name and address of the next victim of the asalto. Then, off in a caravan once more!

Same parranda puertorriqueña from first video on this post (Christmas 2007), but after some other people joined! We were “assaulting” one of my neighbors 😀

And yes, it comes full circle again: Gather at the front door in silence, once everyone’s ready with the instruments they start off as loudly as possible again, singing and playing all those traditional instruments until Victim No.2 wakes up and gives the “assailants” some food and rum. This cycle continues as long as the group wishes, but it usually lasts well into the next morning, when around 10 AM someone knew of a party up in the mountains at the grandma’s house of someone else and the huge group of like 60+ people simply crash the party. When this happens during the holiday season, the people hosting the party are actually delighted to receive the party crashers aka assailants: So long you are singing and playing an instrument (you know, just give any sign that you were part of a parranda puertorriqueña all night long), you will be received warmly with, you guessed it, even more food and alcohol!! 😀

Ahh, just remembering the many parrandas puertorriqueñas I have been part of throughout the years makes me so homesick. Fortunately though, this tradition is migrating to several parts of the world, particularly the U.S., as we Puerto Ricans attempt to make Christmas our own no matter where we are. In fact, I just heard of a group called A Son De Plena based in Tampa, FL. Above, you can see them gathering for a parranda puertorriqueña to surprise their fellow Puerto Rican friends in town–or any other foreign friends that still know about the peculiar Christmas tradition. I’m so excited to join them on the weekend of Día de los Reyes Magos (January 6th) and introduce my gringo boyfriend to this lively Puerto Rican tradition!


A HILARIOUS short film summarizing this entire post perfectly – ENJOY! 😀

Ever been part of a parranda puertorriqueña? Comment below!

Christmas traditions around the world PT 2!

CLICK HERE for pt 1 of Christmas traditions around the world! learn about the FESTIVE customs and traditions of even more countries.

Christmas in Italy

Christmas traditions around the world, nativity scene

Presepe: Nativity scene in Italy (Photo: Davide Papalini)

Thought Christmas were longer only in Latin America? Think again! In Italy, Christmas officially starts on December 8th with the Feast Day of the Immaculate Conception and then, families typically start to decorate their homes with lights. Gift giving, however, does not happen until January 6th or Epiphany, a tradition shared with many Latin American countries. That 12th day of Christmas is when it is believed that the Three Wise Men (aka Three Kings) visited Baby Jesus and showered him with gifts. As such, just like in Latin America, the main Christmas decoration is the Nativity scene, or as it is called in Italian: The presepe.

Christmas in Jordan

Christmas traditions around the world, beef and bulgur

Minced beef and bulgur, a traditional Christmas dish in Jordan (Photo:Wearenotmartha.com)

Christmas in Jordan is celebrated with great fervor by the Christian minority there. What surprised me the most, however, is the tradition of soaking dry fruits in rum, brandy, and cognac by women in early December! I can’t wait to go back to the Middle East an try those! 😉 Then on Christmas Eve, a cake is baked, while Christmas Day dinner consists of grilled eggplant, vine leaves in tomato sauce, stuffed turkey, and minced beef with bulgur

Christmas in Martinique

Christmas traditions around the world, shrubb

Clément Créole Shrubb, a popular one in Martinique (Photo:Scotlandstephenson.com)

Christmas in this creole tropical island is a mix of Caribbean and French flavors. Their most distinct Christmas tradition, however, is the making and drinking of shrubb, a fine liquor made of white rum, sugarcane syrup and dried peels of tangerines and oranges, which are abundant at this time of the year.

Christmas in Mexico

Christmas traditions around the world, posada

Posada procession in Oaxaca, Mexico (Photo: GoMexico.about.com)

Mexican Christmas (or “Navidades”) officially start on December 16th with a tradition called “Las Posadas,” which last all the way until Noche Buena or Christmas Eve. This tradition involves the recreation of Mary and Joseph’s hard journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem, trying to find shelter to give birth. A different part of the journey is recreated every night, culminating with a party at a neighborhood. Children dress as angels, shepherds, and also as Mary and Joseph in such processions, with their parents following with lit candles.

Christmas in Morocco

Jemaa el Fnaa

Jemaa el Fnaa Square. Marrakech, Morocco

As a Muslim country, Christmas is rarely celebrated in Morocco. Yet, due to the strong French/European influence in the country, along with a growing expat community, you will find Christmas lights and decorations sprinkled throughout the big cities. Days vary, however, depending on the faith and background of that minority. For instance, members of the Orthodox Christian Church celebrate Christmas on January 6th; while the Coptic and Armenian Churches celebrate the holy day on January 7th. Last, but not least, the Catholics typically attend a special evening mass on December 24th to start Christmas.

Christmas in Panama

Christmas traditions around the world, Panama

Left: A traditional pollera dress; Right: Light show during Panama City’s Christmas Boat Show (Photos: Family-christmas-traditions.com)

Christmas in Panama is quite lively and several great events are held, specially in the capital Panama City. Festivities kick off the 2nd weekend of December with a big Christmas Parade. Gorgeous floats pass by and women dress in very bright, traditional dresses called polleras. Also, at night, an amazing boat parade showcase a light show that is truly spectacular!

Christmas in Puerto Rico

It is tough to decide what’s your favorite tradition of a Puerto Rican Christmas. Is it the fact that they begin on Thanksgiving Day in November and don’t end until the end of January? Is it the party after party throughout the whole season and how virtually everyone decorates their homes with hundreds of lights? Or is it the food and plena music?

Coming from the Island of Enchantment, I can tell you that the most unique and fun Christmas tradition in Puerto Rico is the parrandas! In essence, they are drunken Christmas carols! Learn more about Puerto Rican parrandas here.

Christmas in Spain

Christmas traditions around the world, Pavo trufado

Pavo trufado: A traditional Christmas dish in Spain (Photo: Cocina.org)

Naturally, Christmas traditions in Spain are very similar to those in Latn America. Thus, I have decided to switch it up a bit on this entry and leave ya with a recipe of a traditional Christmas dish in Spain: Pavo Trufado de Navidad (Christmas Turkey with Truffles)!

1 turkey of 4 kg.
½ kg. minced lean pork
1 kg. minced veal
Salt and ground black pepper
1 glass of brandy
1 large glass of dry oloroso sherry
3 tins (of 90g) truffles (mushrooms)
150 g “jamon serrano”
200 g belly of pork in rashers
6 eggs [click here for the rest!]

Christmas in Switzerland

Christmas traditions around the world, Swiss ringli

Ringli: Typical Christmas treat in Switzerland

A special Swiss Christmas tradition is to await the arrival of Christkindli: A white angel wearing a crown full of jewels, which holds a face veil over its face. This angel is the one that brings the presents. These, by the way, come in a basket, which is carried by Christkindli‘s child helpers. Also, another Swiss Christmas tradition is  to eat ringli (homemade doughnuts) with hot chocolate.

Christmas in St Thomas (US Virgin Islands)

Christmas traditions around the world, St Thomas sweet bread

Photo recipe: VirginIslandsThisWeek.com (click to enlarge)

One event to look forward to when spending Christmas in St. Thomas is the Challenge of the Carols outdoor concert. It is infamously glorious! While at it, grab some Johnny cakes (traditional holiday sweet bread). Click on the image above for a traditional recipe to bake at home!

Christmas in Vatican City

Christmas traditions around the world, Vatican

Vatican Christmas Tree (Photo: Sunshine city, Flikr)

Naturally, the Pope delivers his traditional Christmas speech and directs mass to thousands of fervent believers. This service, called “midnight papal mass,” actually begins at 10 PM on Christmas Eve in St. Peter’s Basilica. The papal speech, however, is delivered around noon on Christmas Day.

What are your favorite Christmas traditions around the world? Why?

Christmas traditions around the world + photos!

In the Western & Christian worlds, we celebrate Christmas this weekend. In celebration, I decided to compile some unique Christmas traditions around the world! Since our globe has more than 200 countries, the list below includes only the ones I have personally visited and/or lived in. This way, we keep the number close to 30 😉 Hope you enjoy it!

Aruba

Christmas traditions around the world, ajaca

Ajaca: Traditional food eaten during Christmas in Aruba, it is made of plantains and stuffed with pork, chicken or beef (Photo:Mourinhospenis.tumblr.com)

In this beautiful Caribbean island, it is commonplace for families to go to church together on Christmas Eve. Then, families gather again for Christmas dinner the next day and sing Aruban songs as they eat ajaca (also eaten in Puerto Rico, but known as “pastel”), salted ham and salmon.

Austria

Christmas traditions around the world, Austria markets

Christmas market in Vienna, Austria (Photo: Manfred Werner)

While Christmas markets are very popular in several cities across Europe, they are particularly important in Austria. The most popular in this quaint country are found in Vienna (in front of the City Hall), Innsbruck (in square by the Golden Roof), and Salzburg (by Residenzplatz/the big Cathedral).

Barbados

Christmas traditions around the world, Barbados

Christmas Pantomime by St Winifred School, Barbados (Photo:Bajanchristmas.wordpress.com)

In the Barbados, a curious tradition is that children put on a pantomime show (instead of a traditional Christmas play) for school. This is also common Christmas tradition in Jamaica.

Curacao

Christmas traditions around the world, Sinterklaas

Sinterklaas (Dutch Santa Claus) and his helper, Zwarte Piet (Black Peter). Photo: Looi at nl.wikipedia

In the Dutch Caribbean (including the ABC islands of Aruba, Bonaire & Curacao) they celebrate what it’s called Saint Nicholas Day. What’s really special in this region, however, is Sinterklaas: The Dutch Santa Claus! He makes an appearance on December 5th and gives out the gifts then! Oh, it is also feast day 😉

Dominican Republic

Christmas traditions around the world, Three Kings

"Los Tres Reyes Magos," meaning "The Three Magic Kings" (Photo: Studioporto.com)

While many Latin American countries celebrate both December 25th (Santa Claus/Christmas) and January 6th (Three Kings Day), only the latter is celebrated in Dominican Republic. There might be some exceptions to the rule, such as wealthy families exchanging gifts on both days. This, however, is rare. What, then, happens on January 6th? Children leave grass for the “camels” of the Three Kings to eat under their beds (not tree!) and then see their gifts there the next morning.

Egypt

Christmas traditions around the world, fattah

Egyptian fattah (Photo: Mylifeinapyramid.com)

Christmas in EGYPT? That’s right! While more than 90% of the population in Egypt are Muslims, there is still a Christian minority, called the Coptic Church. Also, as an Orthodox Church, so they actually celebrate Christmas on January 7th, a day after Three Kings Day in Latin America (Epiphany). Then, on Christmas Eve, everyone goes to church midnight service wearing a brand-new outfit, then goes home afterward to eat delicious fata (pictured above).

England

Christmas traditions around the world, Boxing Day

Keswick Boxing Day Hunt, Market Square, Cumbria, Lakes District, England in 1962 (Photo: Phillip Capper, Wiki)

Some peculiar Christmas traditions in England are the Queen of England’s speech (radio and televised) on Christmas Day and the celebration of Boxing Day on Dec. 26th, which nowadays involves giving small amounts of money as gifts to those who have helped you throughout the year (i.e. the mailman, the newspaper boy, etc.). When it comes to food, Christmas lunch includes a chestnut-stuffed turkey, Yorkshire pudding and roast beef or roast goose.

Germany

Christmas traditions around the world, suckling pig

Suckling pig: Traditional German dish eaten on “Dickbauch” feast day (Photo:Whydyoueatthat.wordpress.com)

As in several European countries, the day that German kids actually receive gifts is December 7th. Thus, on the night of December 6th, children place a boot or shoe by the fireplace (similar to the mistletoe tradition!) and wait for St. Nicholas to fill it with gifts! Another funny fact? Christmas Eve is called “Dickbauch” (which means “fat stomach”) and if you do not eat well on that day, you will be haunted by DEMONS! Say wha!? Interesting Christmas superstition indeed!

Iceland

Christmas traditions around the world, Yule Lads

Two of the Yule Lads on a billboard in Iceland (Photo:WikiCommons)

Icelandic Christmas is great, as it lasts 26 days and brings about 13 different “Santa Clauses” (also called “Yule Lads”) and they start bringing gifts 13 days before December 25th! The story behind them is that their parents are mean mother Grýla (who takes away the naughty kids in town!) and father Leppalúði, who is not that bad. Their children then are the infamous Yuletid, and each day of the Icelandic Christmas a different one comes to town, either bringing gifts or a prank, or both! 😉 on December 12th, children place a shoe by the window and expect one of the many “Santa Clauses” to leave gifts – but if you have been naughty, you get a potato instead! The major gift exchange and Christmas celebration, however, happens on Christmas Eve, when many Icelanders also go to midnight mass.

Israel & Palestine

While Jews celebrate Chanukkah around the same time, a minority of Christian Arabs do celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, the Messiah, on December 25th. Celebrations are particularly evident in Bethlehem and the Church of Nativity, where it is believed to be the location of the manger where Jesus was born more than 2,000 years ago. See the video above to get a taste of Christmas in the West Bank/Palestine!

For part 2, and many more traditions from other countries, CLICK HERE!!

What are your favorite Christmas traditions around the world? Why?

Vatican City walls – Travel Photos

Vatican City walls? For those of you who still don’t know, Vatican City happens to be the smallest independent country in the world. Below, I pictured the massive Vatican city walls that enclose the tiny state, which even has a “mini border” of sorts. Another interesting fact? In order to be part of the Swiss Army (protects the Pope), you must be a male virgin – or so my tour guide told me. I believe him (although believing the guards who say they are all virgins is a different story)

Vatican City walls

Massive Vatican City walls

Vatican City walls

Me in front of Vatican City wall and "border"

Have you seen the Vatican City walls up close and personal?